Exploring this Job
Personal experience as a library patron is the first opportunity for you to see if a library career would be of interest. You can get a good idea of the general atmosphere of a library by browsing for books, searching electronic encyclopedias for a school research project, or using a library's Internet connection to access all kinds of information. Using libraries yourself will also give you an idea of the types of services that a library provides for its patrons.
If you are interested in a career as a library technician, talk with librarians and library technicians at your school or community library. A visit to a large or specialized library would also be helpful in providing a view of the different kinds of libraries that exist.
There may also be opportunities to work as a library volunteer at a public library or in the school library media center. Some grammar schools or high schools have library clubs as a part of their extracurricular activities. If your school doesn't have a library club, contact your school librarian and get some friends together to start your own group. Part-time or summer work as a shelving clerk or typist may also be available in some libraries.
Work in libraries falls into three general categories: technical services, user services, and administrative services. Library technicians may be involved with the responsibilities of any of these areas.
In technical services, library technicians are involved with acquiring resources and then organizing them so the material can be easily accessed. They process order requests, verify bibliographic information, and prepare order forms for new materials, such as books, magazines, journals, videos, digital video discs (DVDs), and CD-ROMs. They perform routine cataloging of new materials and record information about the new materials in computer databases or on cards to be stored in catalog drawers. The acquisitions technicians, classifiers, and catalogers who perform these functions make information available for the library users. Technicians who work for interlibrary loan departments may arrange for one library to borrow materials from another library or for a library to temporarily display a special collection. They might make basic repairs to damaged books or refer the materials to a preservation department for more comprehensive conservation. A circulation counter attendant helps readers check out materials and collects late fines for overdue books. Media technicians operate audiovisual equipment for library media programs and maintain the equipment in working order. They often prepare graphic artwork and television programs.
Under the guidance of librarians in user services, technicians work directly with library patrons and help them to access the information needed for their research. They direct library patrons to the computer or card catalog in response to inquiries and assist with identifying the library's holdings. They describe the general arrangement of the library for new patrons and answer basic questions about the library's collections. They may also help patrons use microfiche and microfilm equipment. They may help them locate materials in an interlibrary system's computerized listing of holdings. Reference library technicians specialize in locating and researching information. Children's library technicians and young-adult library technicians specialize in getting children and young adults interested in books, reading, and learning by sponsoring summer reading programs, reading hours, puppet shows, literacy contests, and other fun activities.
Technicians who work in administrative services help with the management of the library. They might help prepare budgets, coordinate the efforts of different departments within the library, write policy and procedures, and work to develop the library's collection. If they have more responsibility they might supervise and coordinate staff members, recruit and supervise volunteers, organize fund-raising efforts, sit on community boards, and develop programs to promote and encourage reading and learning in the community.
The particular responsibilities of a library technician vary according to the type of library. Academic library technicians work in university or college libraries, assisting professors and students in their research needs. Their work would revolve around handling reference materials and specialized journals. School library technicians work with school library media specialists, assisting teachers and students in utilizing the print and nonprint resources of a school library media center.
Library technicians also work in special libraries maintained by government agencies, corporations, law firms, advertising agencies, museums, professional associations, medical centers, religious organizations, and research laboratories. Library technicians in special libraries deal with information tailored to the specific needs and interests of the particular organization. They may also organize bibliographies, prepare abstracts and indexes of current periodicals, or research and analyze information on particular issues.
Library technicians develop and index computerized databases to organize information collected in the library. They also help library patrons use computers to access the information stored in their own databases or in remote databases. They also manage library Web sites. With the increasing use of automated information systems, many libraries hire automated system technicians to help plan and operate computer systems and information technicians and database designers to help design and develop information storage retrieval systems and procedures for collecting, organizing, interpreting, and classifying information.
In the past, library technicians functioned solely as the librarian's support staff, but this situation has evolved over the years. Library technicians continue to refer questions or problems requiring professional experience and judgment to librarians. However, with the increasing use of computer systems in libraries, library technicians now perform many of the technical and user service responsibilities once performed by librarians, thereby freeing librarians to focus more on acquisitions and administrative responsibilities. In some cases a library technician may handle the same responsibilities as a librarian, even in place of a librarian.